Tom Jans
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The Eyes of an Only Child

Paul Evers
Oor Magazine
1975

"Raised by a cowboy and a woman's only dream
Held steady by their smile
Knowing that my life would always be seen
Through the eyes of an only child"

Tom Jans, singer, pianist, guitarist, only child, loner ('I've been lonely, lost and forgotten') is carrying his past with him. The drab/grey sleeve speaks for itself, on one side in full sunlight a grown up Tom Jans is leaning against a wall, carelessly smoking. Around the corner, on the other side, in the shade just visible there's a little boy of around ten sitting on the ground, a cigarette in his hand. With his debut album (sic) 'Eyes of an only Child' Jans tries to come clean with his past, but the (secretly smoking) lonely boy from the past is carrying his childhood with him, a past that he now, while standing in the light of day, is able to catch in words.

Restlessness and longing define his lyrics, gorgeous dragging country rock define the lines of the melodies. A very beautiful moving autobiographical work, brought with so much power and conviction that Jans brings himself into balance. He doesn't lose himself in words and isn't burying what he has got to say in a musical swamp, everything is staying plain, clear and understandable. This has also to do with the more than brilliant production by Lowell George (Little Feat), who succeeds in combining Jans' rather hoarse, whining voice in a chrystal clear way with a beautiful accentuating country rock background (of course Jans himself on piano and guitar and among others Lowell George and Jesse Ed Davis on guitars and a magnificent David Lindley on slide guitar.) I don't know much more about Jans' musical past than that he made a folk album with Mimi Farina (Joan Baez' younger sister) in '71: 'Take Hearts' (sic). But it doesn't seem so important to know more because 'Eyes of an Only Child' is unveiling a complete past.

'But I'm running out of somewhere to go/ so I just move'. In 'Gotta Move', the   first track on side one he doesn't want to commit himself to a woman, the independant trucker is seeing that there's so much more to do. In 'Once before I die', the same theme of restlessness and longing is emerging. 'I remember eagles searching for the sky / I'm just like that eagle / I keep searching for the sky / I know I'm gonna love you / Once before I die'. Both songs dealing with experiences from his adolesence are fine slow-country-rockers.

Where did all my good friends go' is a bit more cheerful; musically it's most interesting because of the excellent funky guitar licks embedded in what coul be called a kind of country-folk rhythm.

Lyrically there's the same doubt and digging into the past here: he describes how good it once was (money, luxury, wife) but where did all his real friends go? What you got is not more than pretence, a theme that returns in 'Lonely Brother'', which is about a man who bought his life but: 'you could die, never knowing why'.

Tom Jans on piano: that means the liberated melancholic, first and foremost in the shining ballad 'Inside of you'. For me 'Directions and connections' is the best example of Southern country-loner-rock: a dominating slide guitar, screaming girls choirs and that with such a held back and well timed power that the end of the song ('boys and girls' are mingling and keep talking right through the fading song)  comes as a relief. The title number which concludes the record is a very beautiful personal ballad but each song deserves a more extended description than I can give here. He is observing himself and his environment and is doing that in such a compelling way that he deserves more than just a rave review. A musical candy for long winter nights.

thanks to hans nils for the translation


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This page updated October 2001 by Geoff
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